What, If Anything, Did We Learn from Dallas's Fight Over Convention Center Hotel?

Mayor Tom Leppert at the groundbreaking on the convention center hotel in September
Mayor Tom Leppert at the groundbreaking on the convention center hotel in September
Sam Merten

It's been almost seven months since Dallas voters agreed to build a convention-center hotel, and almost three months since the groundbreaking. And while the rancorous battle over Mayor Tom's pet project may be a thing of the past, we're a long ways off from finding out whether or not it was worth it. Which is why Governing magazine, in its December issue, wonders, "Should Cities Be in the Mega-Hotel Business?" And by "cities," Josh Goodman really means "Dallas," as we're more or less the subject of the lengthy feature in which Leppert once more explains why Dallas needs the hotel, while critics (Anne Raymond and University of Texas at San Antonio public-policy prof Heywood Sanders) yet again say that if it's such a good idea, why didn't private developers think of it first.

"If this was a good real estate transaction, the private sector would do it," [Raymond] says. "Dallas is filled with optimistic real estate investors, but no one would step up." In her view, that's because they knew more about the market than the local government did.

Of course, a city can make a better deal for itself in the bond market than a private developer can. The bonds cities issue are tax-exempt, and allow them to pay bondholders much lower interest rates. What's more, says Mayor Leppert, cities simply have different standards of success than private hotel companies do.

For cities, the financial success of the hotel itself is secondary. The point is to have the convention center thrive and for the city to reap the benefits of increased economic activity and increased tax revenue. This, Leppert argues, isn't some dramatic expansion of government: The hotel is really just an extension of the public convention center itself.

Speaking of, last week the Dallas Convention Center Hotel Development Corporation met to discuss making a few changes that totaled $1 million, give or take. Such as: getting rid of 16 bedrooms to make way for more meeting rooms. Can't find the meeting agenda archived anywhere, but will update when I can locate.

Update at 11:01 a.m.: Chris Heinbaugh, the mayor's chief of staff, was kind enough to send along the agenda to last Monday's meeting. After the jump, the two change orders and the amount of money being paid out to attorneys.

2. Consideration and approval of BRP Change Order #2 to revise VE tracker Item #4: "Change the Typical King Guestroom Bathroom Tubs to Showers" in the amount of $550,312

3. Consideration and approval of BRP Change Order #3 to revise VE tracker Item #15: "Add 6 meeting rooms at level 5 by deleting 16 guestrooms" in the amount of $336,156.00

4. Consideration and approval of payment of $114,641.46 pursuant to invoices of Fuibright & Jaworski. Invoices dated as follow:

November 17, 2008 - $25,000
November 17, 2008 - $51,791.75
March 10, 2009 - 27,932.17
April 28, 2009 - $9,917.54

5. Consideration and approval of payment of $6,695.00 pursuant to invoice dated September 2, 2009, of Gorrondona & Associates, Inc. (surveyor)

6. Consideration and approval of payment of $481.49 pursuant to invoices dated October 5, 2009, of Jeffers Mange!.


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